Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Asunder (Newsoul #2) by Jodi Meadows - Ashley's Review

My Pre-Reading
Paul's Review
Paul's Pre-Reading

Title: Asunder 
Author: Jodi Meadows
Year Published: 2013
 
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis: DARKSOULS
Ana has always been the only one. Asunder. Apart. But after Templedark, when many residents of Heart were lost forever, some hold Ana responsible for the darksouls–and the newsouls who may be born in their place.

SHADOWS
Many are afraid of Ana’s presence, a constant reminder of unstoppable changes and the unknown. When sylph begin behaving differently toward her and people turn violent, Ana must learn to stand up not only for herself but for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

LOVE
Ana was told that nosouls can’t love. But newsouls? More than anything, she wants to live and love as an equal among the citizens of Heart, but even when Sam professes his deepest feelings, it seems impossible to overcome a lifetime of rejection.

In this second book in the Newsoul trilogy, Ana discovers the truth about reincarnation and will have to find a way to embrace love and make her young life meaningful. Once again, Jodi Meadows explores the extraordinary beauty and shadowed depths of the soul in a story equal parts epic romance and captivating fantasy.


Review: I wish I had reread Incarnate before I started this book. When I started Asunder, I had completely forgotten who some of the characters were, what had happened to them, and pretty much everything except for the really important things. I think I probably would have gotten into this so much quicker and easier if I had remembered what was even going on. That being said, the way that Meadows reminds you what went down last time was done very well. It didn't seem overwhelming or like she was telling you "ok, this this and this happened." It was more Ana remembering. Which is totally believable. 


I loved how music was incorporated into this story again. As a musician, it's always interesting to see how music impacts characters and how much people rely on it. If I were Sam, I would have been absolutely devastated if someone had done to me what they do to him. And then I would probably go on a rampage. I love how Ana goes from listening to music to playing it to composing it, and I'm super jealous that she can pick all of that up so quickly.
Meadows' world building skills are absolutely extraordinary. I mean, I thought I knew a lot about the world by the end of Incarnate. But she just keeps throwing new things at me, and I love all of them. I was really excited when I realized that there would be a lot of sylph in this book as well, because I had so many questions about them at the end of Incarnate. And I was not disappointed at all! I still have questions, but they're new ones. I also really enjoyed how religion and romance are portrayed in this book. Especially when the truth about Janan is revealed. Or part of it, anyway.

Oh, and Cris. I loved Cris and his roses. I don't like Stef as much anymore, but I can understand why she does and says the things she does. But Cris... I wish we had seen more of him!

One of my only gripes about this book was that Ana mentions being "asunder" way too often. By the end, I wanted to take that word and cram it down her throat so many times. I understand it's a big part of Ana and of the story, but good grief. Maybe if the title of the book was something else it wouldn't have bothered me so much, but I like subtler reasons for books being named what they are.

Overall, I would totally recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Incarnate. I would also recommend the series to anyone who enjoys fantasy books filled with romance, mystery, and adventure. A very strong 4/5 on this one! 



--Ashley

Monday, April 29, 2013

Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon - Ashley's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

My Pre-Reading

Title: Zenn Scarlett
Author: Christian Schoon
Year Published: 2013

Amazon | Barnes &Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis:
 When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal. 


Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year....


Review: I love space novels, and this one met all my expectations in that category. I loved all of the animals and the descriptions of the planets and technology. I especially liked that the descriptions compared things to Earthen creatures or places or ideas, so that the images I tried to form came really easily. The 3rd person limited point of view really helped with that too, I think, because it gave a way to give descriptions without making it too awkward.

For some reason, I went into this book totally convinced it was a standalone. At about 80% of the way through it, I realized that I was sadly mistaken, and this had to be part of a series. I was left wanting more though, so I'm glad this wasn't just a standalone book. I want more mystery, more creatures, and I can't wait to see how Zenn continues to grow as an exovet and as a young woman.

I did think the plot was a little dry, and not too many questions were resolved, but that might also come from me thinking this book wasn't part of a series for so long. It did take me a little while to get into, and the writing tended to be a little slow at times, but once I finally got past most of the set up and initial construction of the world, I started to enjoy the story immensely and flew through it. I found most of the twists to be predictable, but they were executed well so I wasn't too upset about that. 

The characters were all great though. Zenn was smart, dedicated, kind, and strong. She's been hurt, but she doesn't let that get in the way of caring for the animals. And then there's Liam, who I totally wish we could have seen more of. He's a whole pile of mixed up, and I think he's absolutely wonderful. And Hamish would probably drive me crazy, but he means well and becomes less annoying as he finally begins to understand the way of things on Mars. I really just loved all of the characters and found them to be so dynamic and round. 

All things considered, I would definitely recommend this book to any who enjoys sci fi stories, especially those based in space. Although it doesn't take place on a space ship, I think fans of Beth Revis' Across the Universe series and Amy Kathleen Ryan's Skychasers series. There's not as much war and death, but there are mysteries and a little romance and cool alien creatures. I think being an exovet would be awesome. I would give this a 4/5, and cannot wait to continue Zenn's story! Hopefully sooner than later, please!


--Ashley

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Elite (Selection #2) by Kiera Cass - Ashley's Pre-Reading


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: The Elite
Author: Kiera Cass
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: 
The hotly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Selection.


Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

Why?: I read The Selection last year, and have been dying for some more Prince Maxon ever since then. I mean, I'm NOT  fan of The Bachelor at all, but there's just something about princes and princesses and a country at war that just sucks me in. And after the way The Selection ended, there's no way I could pass this book up.

Expectations: I expect to have all of the feels in this book. I'm really hoping for some great Maxon scenes, but I'm sure not everything will be roses there. Plus, there's always Aspen to screw things up. And I'm expecting more of the rebels too, so I hope there is more action in this book than the last one. 

Judging a book by its cover: This cover is absolutely gorgeous. I mean, I loved the cover of The Selection, but this one is even better. I would totally pick this book up off of a shelf if I saw it somewhere.


--Ashley

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells - Ashley's Review

*I received this book as an eARC from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*


Title: Emilie and the Hollow World 
Author: Martha Wells
Year Published: 2013



Synopsis: While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure.

Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father.

With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.


Review: This book really surprised me. I mean, the description sounded really interesting to me, so I was already looking forward to reading it, but I got so much more than I expected from it. Emilie is not the strongest heroine out there, but over the course of her journey she grows so much and matures into a fairly strong young women. All in the course of a month or so! But I thought Wells did an excellent job with her development - it didn't occur too quickly and Emilie adapted very well to all of the situations thrown at her.

I really enjoyed the descriptions Wells gives about the Hollow World. I think it's so cool that there's a world with in a world (world-ception?), and the inhabitants of one world don't really believe that there are people who live in the other one. And then the two worlds collide, and it's super cool. I wish I could travel through aether currents and discover such exciting new things. Even as dangerous and scary as it was. 

Steampunk novels have not really been my thing, and I don't actively seek them out. But I really though that this one was done very well. The steampunk parts are there, but they aren't overwhelming and in your face. Elements of steampunk are present in the science portion of the aether and the ships, but they serve as enhancements more than the main focus of the story, and I really appreciated that. Plus there's a little magic and sorcery thrown in, and I do love my science mixed with magic. 

This was a super easy read. The plot chugs along at a pretty constant pace, and I never felt like anything was dragging or any descriptions were too long. It's a fairly simplistic story, and pretty predictable, but it was a nice change of pace from all of the epic adventure fantasy dystopian novels I've been reading recently. I do wish we had had more minor character development, but I know there's only so much you can have in a standalone. I think it would be easy enough for a younger audience to read, but that it's also engaging enough to keep an older audience engrossed in the story. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of science fiction/fantasy, and to people who are looking to get their feet wet in the steampunk genre. I think even fans of steampunk would like this book, even with its minimal steampunk content. I would give it a 3/5. 


--Ashley

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Crown of Embers (Girl of Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson - Ashley's Review

My Pre-Reading
Paul's Review


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Crown of Embers
Author: Rae Carson
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis:
 In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.


Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. 

As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.


Review: This book was absolutely fantastic. It was completely different from The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and I think that made it even better. While the series opens with a story of epic adventures and fighting and a girl maturing from someone not qualified at all to be a leader to someone who wins a major battle for her people, this book really delves more into the politics and Elisa's emotions. Now that her husband is dead and she is left to rule her country alone, being a war hero won't keep her happy or loyal or even safe for long. 

Being on the political side of things for this book was really interesting, even though I'm not one to go looking for books about politics and such. I think it really helps expand the world. I mean, it's one thing to be able to create a world and describe its physical attributes, but it's a completely different thing to be able to describe its government in a way that makes for an interesting story and keeps the same feel as the previous book. I love Carson's writing style, and she does an excellent job keeping the reader engaged. 

I also loved the way that Elisa grows and matures in this book. She learns important lessons, and gives up things that could help her be the most powerful ruler to save friends and rule on her own terms with her own strengths. And then there's the budding romance (that I totally called from the end of Girl of Fire and Thorns). I was very happy with how it was done - not too much, not too pushy, and just enough at the right time. I also love how Carson included same sex relationships like they were nothing out of the ordinary. 

In my opinion, the way religion is dealt with is done very well. A monothiestic religion is practiced, but there is magic and fantasy and all sorts of things built in to it. And although they refer to "God," it's very clear that the religion is a fictional one and not meant to offend or make a statement about any existing religions. I personally think that's a fine line to tread, and that Carson does an exceptional job with it.

I would totally recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA Fantasy novels. Especially fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling series, Kiera Cass' The Selection, and all those types of books. Politics, fantasy, religion, and epic adventures come together for one amazing story. I can't wait to see how Elisa's story will end! 5/5 for sure on this book!


--Ashley

Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer - Paul's Review


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My Pre Reading

Title: Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal
Author: Chris Colfer
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal follows the story of outcast high school senior Carson Phillips, who blackmails the most popular students in his school into contributing to his literary journal to bolster his college application; his goal in life is to get into Northwestern and eventually become the editor of The New Yorker. At once laugh-out-loud funny, deliciously dark, and remarkably smart, Struck By Lightning unearths the dirt that lies just below the surface of high school. At a time when bullying torments so many young people today, this unique and important novel sheds light with humor and wit on an issue that deeply resonates with countless teens and readers.

Review: This book felt like it was a written adaptation of a film. And, it was. I still haven't seen the film, but after reading this I still want to. The character played by Rebel Wilson was written just like she usually delivers dialogue. She's one of the funniest young actresses out there, but reading it just isn't the same as watching it. The book itself even included pictures from the film. The descriptions of the characters weren't very detailed within the book. 


I am unsure in exactly what order this book and the film were created. The book was sold as if it was written before the movie, but it seems like it was an afterthought. 

I should get to the actual story, though. Carson Phillips is kind of an unlikable character. He doesn't treat his fellow students well, even though he sees himself as an outcast. The rest of the characters appear to be stock high school cliches, but by the end they each develop in interesting ways. 

I like how Carson Phillips blackmails all these nonwriters and forces them to write things for him. Towards the end of the book, you even get to see some of their writing. 

I don't understand why the title of this book was chosen. I see how it fits, but unless the big even is done differently in the movie, it seems like a sloppy reveal. 

I give this book a 3/5. It is a typical high school outcast story with some interesting characters and a witty voice. If you are a fan of Chris Colfer, you should definitely pick this one up. 

-PAUL

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Asunder (Newsoul #2) by Jodi Meadows - Ashley's Pre-Reading


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Asunder 
Author: Jodi Meadows
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: 
DARKSOULS

Ana has always been the only one. Asunder. Apart. But after Templedark, when many residents of Heart were lost forever, some hold Ana responsible for the darksouls–and the newsouls who may be born in their place.

SHADOWS
Many are afraid of Ana’s presence, a constant reminder of unstoppable changes and the unknown. When sylph begin behaving differently toward her and people turn violent, Ana must learn to stand up not only for herself but for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

LOVE
Ana was told that nosouls can’t love. But newsouls? More than anything, she wants to live and love as an equal among the citizens of Heart, but even when Sam professes his deepest feelings, it seems impossible to overcome a lifetime of rejection.

In this second book in the Newsoul trilogy, Ana discovers the truth about reincarnation and will have to find a way to embrace love and make her young life meaningful. Once again, Jodi Meadows explores the extraordinary beauty and shadowed depths of the soul in a story equal parts epic romance and captivating fantasy.

Why?: I read and loved Incarnate, and so I'm really excited to find out what is in store for Ana and Sam. And what Ana finds out about reincarnation. And I'm so curious about the sylph, I really want to know more about them. 

Expectations: I expect a pretty epic story. Lots of fantastical creatures and idea. And also a mystery that needs to be solved, conflicts to be dealt with, and definitely a lot of romance between Sam and Ana.

Judging a book by its cover: I think the cover is absolutely gorgeous. I would pick this book up off a shelf any day. 


--Ashley

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann - Paul's Review


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My Pre Reading

Title: Cryer's Cross
Author: Lisa McMann
Year Published: 2011

Synopsis: Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer's Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she's not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world's sweetest boyfriend, behind.

But when Cryer's Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn't get close to... the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.

Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she's always loved, Kendall keeps up the search--and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can't stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried....

Review: The whole time while reading this I was wondering whether the story was supernatural/paranormal or not. It wasn't made clear and I had questions and theories in my head that could take place in both the real world and a paranormal/supernatural world. 


Like many of McMann's books this was a fun and easy read, but there was little substance or emotional attachment. It was very predictable. The town and its residents were interesting though. I liked how McMann gave a history to this town. 

The protagonist has OCD. I thought seeing the world through her eyes was really interesting, but it could have been written better. I think it would have been more impactful if Mcmann had showed more and blatantly told less. I wanted to see her compulsions push her instead of being told that OCD was making her do something. 

I give this novel a 3/5. I would suggest it to a middle grade audience looking for a fun thriller with supernatural/paranormal elements. 

-PAUL

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon - Ashley's Pre-Reading

*I received this book as an eARC from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Zenn Scarlett
Author: Christian Schoon
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis:
 When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal. 


Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year....

Why?: This sounds like it will be a really interesting sci-fi novel. Aliens, life on Mars, and a teenage girl dealing with strange connections to the animals? I mean, what's not exciting about that? Plus, I'm really interested to see how Schoon describes the Martian way of life, as well as all of these large, dangerous, and fascinating alien creatures. And I'm all about space books. Anything from Across the Universe to Glow  to the John Carter books, you've got me hooked if you're setting everything up in space.

Expectations: I expect a pretty epic story, filled with a lot of stunning imagery and cool creatures. Plus, the trials and tribulations of trying to go to school while trying to solve a mystery (or several mysteries). I'm expecting quite a lot from this book, and I really hope it delivers.

Judging a book by its cover: I love the cover. It looks like it could be an Earthen girl sitting and looking at the sky, so that's a little misleading. But space is really emphasized, and I really like that. I would probably pick this up off of a shelf if I saw it in a library or book store.


--Ashley

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer - Paul's Pre Reading


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal
Author: Chris Colfer
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal follows the story of outcast high school senior Carson Phillips, who blackmails the most popular students in his school into contributing to his literary journal to bolster his college application; his goal in life is to get into Northwestern and eventually become the editor of The New Yorker. At once laugh-out-loud funny, deliciously dark, and remarkably smart, Struck By Lightning unearths the dirt that lies just below the surface of high school. At a time when bullying torments so many young people today, this unique and important novel sheds light with humor and wit on an issue that deeply resonates with countless teens and readers.

Why?: Chris Colfer is best known for his role of Kurt Hummel on Glee. He has ventured outside his acting realm and into writing. I read his first book, the middle-grade The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell. Although it was definitely written on a middle-grade level, I enjoyed it. Colfer's next creative endeavor was to write and act in his own original movie. That movie was then made into this young adult novel. Since the film was limited release I was not able to catch it in theaters. So, I decided to read the book first. 

Expectations:  I expect something more mature than his prior novel. I expect it to have the flow of a high school movie. I'm hoping for a diverse cast of characters. I've seen some publicity shots and the book itself has pictures in it, so I already have an idea of how some of the characters look in the movie. 

Judging a book by its cover: I like this cover. The literary elements of the book are shown with the pencil and paper. The broken pencil that looks like a lightning bolt is intriguing. Chris Colfer is also on the cover. It's always weird to have a character on the cover because I then think of how that character looks while reading, but with this book imaging Chris Colfer in this role is inevitable.  

-PAUL

Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2) by Veronica Rossi - Ashley's Review

My Pre-Reading

Title: Through the Ever Night
Author: Veronica Rossi
Year Published: 2013

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis: It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, can their love survive through the ever night?

In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating love story as perilous as it is unforgettable.


Review: When I finished Under the Never Sky, I was desperate for Through the Ever Night to come out so that I could continue Perry and Aria's story. And it most definitely did not disappoint. Everything that I loved about the first book in the series - the mystery, the adventure, the romance - was back, and even better. Although there isn't as much tromping around through the wilderness and such, there's still plenty of adventure to be had. And, although the problems are different, they're still just as intense. Oh, and there are parts where I think Rossi just felt like ripping out someone's heart and stepping on it. Because I was certainly in tears. 

Aether storms have become an even bigger problem, and I thought Rossi did an excellent job making them both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I mean, I love a good lightning storm (which is what I picture the Aether storms to look like). But I would never want to witness an Aether storm. I loved how the Tides all work together during the storms to protect each other and save as many of their friends and family as they can.

Although I love hearing about Perry and Aria, I think my favorite part of this book was that we got to learn so much more about all of the minor characters. Whether through flashbacks or current events, we got to know so much more about most of the people in the Tides. And, thanks to Roar and Liv, we already know a little bit about Roar, but it was really interesting to see how his friendship with Aria has grown and continues to grow. It's completely different than his relationship with Liv, but you can just tell how much he loves Aria (in that best friend way). 

Plus, on top of all the great character building, we get to learn even more about the world in which Perry, Aria, and all their friends and family live. It's a scary place, and I give them props for being as brave and as strong as they are. I'd probably turn into a crying little baby if that was my world. 

I cannot wait to find out more about the Still Blue in the next book! I'm hoping there will be another short story to tide us over (fingers and toes crossed!), because I do not want to wait until next year to learn more about the world and its people. I would totally recommend this book to anyone who has read Under the Never Sky, but I would also recommend the series to anyone who enjoyed Divergent, the Delirium trilogy, Shadow and Bone, and even Cinder. And pretty much to everyone I know. A strong 5/5 to this one!


--Ashley

Monday, April 22, 2013

Alex (Delirium #3.5) by Lauren Oliver - Ashley's Review

Title: Alex
Author: Lauren Oliver
Year Published: 2013

Goodreads

So, I don't have a cover or an official synopsis on  this one for you, since it's only in the first printing of Requiem. But, basically, this is Alex's story from the time in between Delirium and Pandemonium. And some of his past thrown in there too.

I've always wondered how Alex managed to survive in the Crypts. I mean, I know he says that Lena was the only thing that kept him going. But it's hard to know how much someone means by that, especially when it's in the middle of an argument. After reading this story, I feel like I know so much more about how Alex felt for Lena, and how much he loves her. 

It also makes it easier to read through Requiem, knowing that he will always love Lena. Because even though Lena felt like she couldn't go on hoping that Alex was alive and had to give him up so that she could move on with her life, you always know that she still loves him. And it's hard seeing Alex so hardened and bitter that it seems like he doesn't return her affections. But, after reading Alex, I can understand why he's so upset with her and why he acts the way he does towards her. I mean, I'd be upset too.

Although I think much of Alex's allure has to do with how attractive he is, I think knowing more about him makes him all the more attractive. He has secrets of his own, secrets he never even told Lena because he thought she would think less of him. But honestly, I don't think they're that bad. They were appropriate responses to a terrible situation. (I'm trying not to give too much away here, I hate spoilery reviews). 

Anyone who has read any of the series and the short stories should definitely try to get their hands on this story. I have no idea if it will ever be available separately from the first printing of Requiem, but you should definitely try to get your hands on it if you can. Borrow a friend's copy of Requiem, even if it's just for this story. I'd give this a 4.5/5.


--Ashley

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Zed: A Cosmic Tale by Michel Gagné - Paul's REVIEW

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***I was provided an ecopy of this graphic novel in exchange for an honest review.***

Title: Zed: A Cosmic Tale
Author/Illustrator: Michel Gagné
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: When a cute little alien named ZED demonstrates his invention to the Hierarchy of the Galaxy, something goes wrong--terribly wrong! Before long, ZED's universe is thrown into complete turmoil and our little hero must face nearly insurmountable odds trying to survive and save the very fate of his home world.

Imbued with a dark edge, peppered with pure silliness, and wrapped up in a childlike sense of wonder, ZED's adventures will keep readers tickled and captivated from start to finish.

Originally published in comic book form over a period of eleven years, ZED has been completely revised and remastered for this definitive edition.

Review: Don't be confused by the Seusslike artwork. This is not a children's book. It is a complex story involving religion and politics. There are some brutal death scenes and a bit of gore. 


The story is a fun read. There are so many different types of alien species. The spaceships also are so unique. The details in the artwork keep you from paging through this graphic novel too fast. 

Although there are some adult situations and a little gore, the story is very light. It is overall a fun read with excellent art. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys comics about galaxywide conflicts with childish art that is in no way for children. I give this graphic novel a 4/5

-PAUL

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson - Ashley's Pre-Reading

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Title: Crown of Embers
Author: Rae Carson
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis:
 In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.


Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. 

As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

Why?: I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and have been anxiously awaiting this sequel since I finished it. I can't wait to see how Elisa's story continues, and how she deals with being a new widow and queen of a foreign land at only 17. And I'm really curious as to what her epic destiny is!

Expectations: I'm expecting quite a lot from this book! Epic adventures, fantasy, magic, and probably lots of heart break. Because that's what Rae Carson does. Makes you fall in love with a character and then kills them. What a jerk. But I love it anyway and think it adds so much to the story.

Judging a book by its cover: I love this cover. It's colorful and striking and all sorts of fantastic things. If I saw it on a shelf somewhere, I would totally pick it up. 



--Ashley

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver - Ashley's Review


Title: Requiem
Author: Lauren Oliver
Year Published: 2013

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Synopsis: They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

Review: Since Delirium, I have been in love with this series, and the world, and Lena an Alex. There's just something about their story that has captured my attention and broken my heart over and over again. Lena goes through so much and changes so completely over the course of the books, that I'm surprised Hana even recognizes her in Requiem. She's so radically different from the way she was in Delirium - she's daring, brave, strong in her beliefs, and very much in love - and it's been incredible to experience her transformation.

I honestly thought Pandemonium was going to be as bad as it was going to get for Lena. I mean, she had to deal with losing Alex (and then finding him!), falling in love with Julian, and almost dying. Oh and realizing her mother is still alive, and then losing her again. I mean, it can't get any worse for her, right? Wrong. Requiem managed to leave me more heartbroken at times than I even thought possible. I don't know how Oliver does it, but she manages to pack such an emotional punch into even the simplest things.

And then, we also got to see how Hana was managing back in Portland. Although I'm not Hana's biggest fan, I thought it was really interesting to see how someone who has been cured is handling the Resistance attacks and planning a wedding to the most important man in the city. And, of course, everyone has their secrets. Even the mayor. I think his might be the worst of all, because he has so much power and has so much potential to abuse that power. 

Like the rest of the series, the writing in this book is absolutely wonderful. It's one of those books that I hated to put down, and then I was so sad that it was over. Especially this time, because that's it. Now we have to say goodbye to Lena and Alex and Julian and Raven everyone else. And speaking of the ending, I thought it was perfect. I don't think a really conclusive ending would have done this series any justice, and it left off in a place that I was ok with. Especially because it feels so real, and not thrown together for the sake of a happily ever after. 

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has read any of the other books. And, if you haven't and you enjoyed series like Matched, Divergent, or any of those other amazing dystopian series, I would totally recommend this book to you. Seriously, you'll be blown away. A strong 5/5 on this one, and over the entire series. 


--Ashley

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann - Paul's Pre Reading


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Title: Cryer's Cross
Author: Lisa McMann
Year Published: 2011 

Synopsis: Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer's Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she's not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world's sweetest boyfriend, behind.

But when Cryer's Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn't get close to... the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.

Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she's always loved, Kendall keeps up the search--and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can't stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried....

Why?:  I have read a few Lisa McMann novels before and I always find them enjoyable. They usually are for a younger audience, but they have worlds that are fun to imagine. 

Expectations:  I'm expecting a thriller for a younger audience. Maybe a few scary situations that will make me want to turn the pages rapidly.    

Judging a book by its cover:  The cover reminds me of a scary show or book from the 90's for kids, like Are You Afraid of the Dark? or Goosebumps. The old desk with scratches into it is creepy. 

-PAUL

Raven (Delirium #2.5) by Lauren Oliver - Ashley's Review

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Title: Raven
Author: Lauren Oliver
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: This captivating 50-page digital-original story set in the world of Lauren Oliver’s New York Times bestselling Delirium series focuses on Raven, the fiery leader of a rebel group in the Wilds.

As a teenager, Raven made the split-second decision to flee across the border to the Wilds, compelled to save an abandoned newborn—a baby girl left for dead and already blue from the cold. When she and the baby are taken in by a band of rebels, Raven finds herself an outsider within a tight-knit group. The only other newcomer is an untrustworthy boy known as the Thief until he finally earns himself a new name: Tack.

Now she and Tack are inseparable, committed to each other, the fledgling rebellion, and a future together. But as they both take center stage in the fight, Raven must decide whether the dangers of the revolution are worth risking her dreams of a peaceful life with Tack.

As her story hurtles back and forth between past and present, Raven transforms from a scared girl newly arrived in the Wilds to the tough leader who helps Lena save former Deliria-Free poster boy Julian Fineman from a death sentence. Whatever the original mission may have been, Raven abides by a conviction that she believes to her core: You always return for the people you love.

By turns surprising, revelatory, and poignant, Raven’s story enriches the Delirium world and resonates with a voice that is as vulnerable as it is strong.

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I think that of all the stories about the girls (Hana, Annabel, and Raven), this one is my favorite. Raven is so guarded in Pandemonium and Requiem that it's hard to really get to know her and see how she feels. We know she and Tack are in love, but we don't know how intensely or what their dreams are or even how they met. This glimpse into Raven's mind really gives so much more depth to her, and even to Tack. And it makes everything she does in the novels make so much more sense.

We also get to see the cure from a different perspective. Although Raven is against it, she came from a home where maybe the cure wasn't so bad. It helped to calm her drunk, abusive father, although it still wasn't enough to keep her away from the Wilds. But if she hadn't, she never would have saved Blue. And I love Blue, although not as much as Raven. 

And then, the ending! It makes Requiem so much sadder, because I don't think anyone knew Raven's secret except for maybe Tack. I was so sad about Raven's fate without knowing, and now it's just heartbreaking. Curse you, Lauren Oliver, for making a terrible situation even worse. All Raven wants is to run away with Tack and have lots of children and just love each other, and it seems like she'll never have that dream, even when it's within sight.

I think everyone who has read any of the Delirium series, especially the last two books, should definitely read this. I would give this story at least a 4/5.


--Ashley

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Pirate's Wish (Assassin's Curse #2) by Cassandra Rose Clarke - Ashley's Pre-Reading


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Title: The Pirate's Wish
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: 
After setting out to break the curse that binds them together, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island in the north with nothing but a sword, their wits, and the secret to breaking the curse: complete three impossible tasks. With the help of their friend Marjani and a rather unusual ally, Ananna and Naji make their way south again, seeking what seems to be beyond their reach.


Unfortunately, Naji has enemies from the shadowy world known as the Mists, and Ananna must still face the repercussions of going up against the Pirate Confederation. Together, Naji and Ananna must break the curse, escape their enemies — and come to terms with their growing romantic attraction.

Why?: I absolutely loved The Assassin's Curse and I was left hanging at the end, so I'm desperate to know  if/when/how Naji completes the Three Impossible Tasks. I'm also really curious about how Ananna approaches this growing attraction she has to Naji, because neither of them seem like very romantic individuals. Ananna is headstrong and not willing to listen to anyone, and Naji is so withdrawn that there's no way Ananna can know how he feels about her. So yeah. Bring it on.

Expectations: I expect a really nice conclusion to this series. Lots of adventure, fantastical places and creatures, pirates, and the crazy Mists people all mixed up in it. Plus, I'm hoping the chimera on the front means there's a chimera in the story somewhere!

Judging a book by its cover: I love this cover! It's very similar to the Assassin's Curse cover, and it always makes me a happy panda when book covers match. Plus, the orange is really eye-catching. And desert-y. If I saw this on a shelf somewhere, I would totally pick it up.


--Ashley

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Annabel (Delirium #1.5) by Lauren Oliver - Ashley's Review

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Title: Annabel
Author: Lauren Oliver
Year Published: 2012

Synopsis: Lena's mother, Annabel, has always been a mystery—a ghost in Lena's past. Until now.

Discover her secrets in Lauren Oliver's brilliant original digital story set in the world of New York Times bestsellers Delirium and Pandemonium.

Lena Halloway's mother, Annabel, supposedly committed suicide when Lena was only six years old. That's the lie that Lena grew up believing, but the truth is very different. As a rebellious teenager, Annabel ran away from home and straight into the man she knew she was destined to marry. The world was different then—the regulations not as stringent, the cure only a decade old. Fast forward to the present, and Annabel is consigned to a dirty prison cell, where she nurtures her hope of escape and scratches one word over and over into the walls: Love.

But Annabel, like Lena, is a fighter. Through chapters that alternate between her past and present, Annabel reveals the story behind her failed cures, her marriage, the births of her children, her imprisonment, and, ultimately, her daring escape.
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The first thing I really enjoyed about this short story is that it is written in the same style as Pandemonium - as a "Now and Then" type thing. I like how the novella kind of mirror the books, and I think it adds quite a bit to the whole series. The next thing that I really enjoyed was learning about Annabel. She's such a mystery to us, and to Lena, and I've always wondered about who she was before she ended up in the Crypts, and what her life in the Crypts was like. And we even get to see a little bit of Lena's father.

Oliver does an excellent job yet again taking a minor character and really expanding on her story so that we not only understand the character, but we also understand more about the society and the world of Delirium. Annabel doesn't grow up in a world where the cure is mandatory, unless you're a criminal or a bad kid. Instead, people opt into it. And I think that really helps the reader to understand how such a thing became mandatory for everyone, and why most people seem to believe that it's a good thing.

Like with Hana, I think everyone who has read any of the Delirium books should read this story. I liked it even more than Hana, and would totally give it at least a 4/5. Go read it! 


--Ashley